New Proverbs for New Men


To feel wisdom stirring within you,
to feel words of insight rising up from below;
to let the spirit of love and understanding take hold
and banish the forces of sickness around you;
to have your willing blindness cast off into darkness
and your determined deafness hurled into the void;
to be illuminated from within
and spoken by the voice of your god:
for all these things and more, open your heart, my brother,
to the proverbs and the figures of your brother.

Love of the god within you is the beginning of knowledge;
it knows what the sages and philosophers ignore.

Fools despise wisdom and say, "Our fathers said nothing of this,
this is unheard-of, no one would think such a thing.
It cannot be true, nor can it be false;
it is no thing at all, a mere breath of hot air,
stirring the shallow and the flighty.
We need not listen. We need not open our hearts.
Our hearts are so compact that we could not open them anyway.
In a tightly shut heart and a carefully closed mind lies our safety;
in a refusal to entertain new possibilities lies our security.
We survive, we remain happy, balanced,
because we keep our spirit's ship on an even keel."

My brother, if the closed-minded entice you, if they slap your back
and bid you put "morbid" thoughts of fear and failure aside,
if they bid you "cheer up," do not consent.
Your sadness in the midst of their sickness
is a glimmering of truth.
Their sickness numbs them to their pain, but you must feel it.
If you do not feel their pain, who will?
They cannot afford to feel joy;
how then can they admit to feeling pain?
It is not enough that you feel your own pain;
you must feel theirs as well.
My brother, do not walk in the way with them,
hold back your foot from their paths;
for their thoughts lead to abstraction,
and their machinations are bloodless.
Like the bird, see the trap they have laid for you
and do not fly into it;
for these men lie in wait for their own blood,
they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who get gain by repression;
it takes away the life of its possessors.

Wisdom cries aloud in the night,
in the private whispers of the dark it raises its voice;
in your hour of greatest frustration,
in failure, depression, desperation, need,
then the noise of the thoroughfares dims
and wisdom enters your mind through the narrow crack.
Wisdom is the god all men have been afraid to hear;
they stop their own ears, and yours, to its call:
"How long, O deaf ones, will you love being deaf?
How long will you stifle my voice in your ears?
How long will scoffers stand proud in their scoffing
and fools call their ignorance knowledge?
Give heed to my whisperings,
lend ears for once to my sighing;
behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
and you have ignored all my urgent supplications
and would have none of my fears and my doubts,
I will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic overtakes you,
when your heart attack comes in the night
and the crab takes your breath in its claw.
Then you will repent of your hard-heartedness
and call on me at last,
but it will be too late;
pity will overcome my laughter only as your life's blood ebbs,
I will come to you in the last fleeting moments of your life.
Because you hated understanding
and did not choose the love of the spirit,
because you would have none of my whisperings
and despised all my supplications,
you shall eat the fruit of your way
and be sated with your own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacence of fools destroys them;
but he who listens to me will find peace
and will live his life without fear."

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